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Our daily life is a relentless battle for survival

A woman in a black burka cooking in a small kitchen.

Jamilah uses one of the corners in her room as a kitchen

Jamilah uses one of the corners in her room as a kitchen

Jamilah is a widowed mother of four children – three daughters and a son – from Taizz, a governorate in southwestern Yemen. Jamilah’s husband died thirteen years ago. She ended up being the sole breadwinner for her family. She works as a farmer for eight hours daily so she can provide food for her family. “We eat two meals a day,” she says. “And most of our meals consist of bread with water only.”

In Al Wazi’iyah district of Taizz, Jamilah lives with her children and her granddaughter in a single room that lacks the most basic resources a family needs. Due to the lack of an in-home latrine, Jamilah and her children had to relieve themselves in the open. “It is very embarrassing to defecate in the open during the daytime,” says Jamilah. “Women have to resist their need of urine until night to relieve themselves in the dark.”

A baby sitting on an old woman's lap
Aseel, Jamilah’s seven-month-old granddaughter, has a tongue-tie that can affect her ability to eat and speak

An estimated 15.4 million Yemeni people, including over 3.4 million women and 8.4 million children, require support to meet their basic water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs. An estimated 49% and 42% of Yemenis have no access to safe water and adequate sanitation. Combined with significant population displacement and increasing poverty, communities are forced to resort to negative coping mechanisms, such as open defecation, which is practiced by nearly 13% of the population.

A lack of access to safe latrines, coupled with the struggle to access menstrual hygiene items due to financial reasons, threatens women’s safety and wellbeing and forces them to adopt unhealthy practices. For instance, urine retention from morning to night often causes infections and, in some cases, leads to kidney failure.

A woman wearing a blue head scarf
Namah, 50 years old, form Taizz

50-year-old Namah explains her suffering, saying: “Women and children endanger their lives to answer the call of nature. Animals’ attacks are only one example of the many risks I have faced. I once saw a fox close to me while I was outside to relieve myself. Every day we face fear and death in order to get our very basic need, but we have no other option.”

Elteham, 35 years old, is another widowed mother of three children who lives in a one-room house with no latrine. Due to the psychological pressure and fear she feels when she goes out to relieve herself, Elteham developed jaundice – a medical condition with yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes. “I can’t afford medication costs,” sadly says Elteham. “I’m afraid to die and leave my children alone.”

Fortunately for residents of Al Wazi’iyah district, with funding from the Global Affairs of Canada (GAC), CARE intervened with its Lifesaving and Recovery Assistance project. Through the project, CARE rehabilitated the sewage system and distributed hygiene kits for 600 households in the area. Through the cash-for-work activity, 35 families were supported to build their latrines, earn much-needed temporary income and save their dignity.

Families were educated about handwashing, water purification, coronavirus prevention and best hygiene practice. “The awareness sessions have improved our knowledge and skills to purify drinking water and dispose of waste correctly,” says Jamilah. “Now my family has a latrine at home and money to buy food, medicine, and other essential items. I hope this aid continues so I can treat my baby granddaughter,” concludes Jamilah.

A woman in a black burka cooking in a small kitchen.
Elteham, 35 years old, hopes for a better future for her three children
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